the imperial archive

a clearinghouse of information for empire-haters

04 July 2006

The myth of the imperial archive

"Ther eis no doubt that no nation can close its hand around the whole of the world. In that sense an empire is always, at least partly, a fiction. Absolute political control is impossible due to a variety of reasons, such as the lack of information and control in distant parts of the imperial territory. This gap in knowledge (in the symbolic constitution of the empire) and control, was covered over by the fantasy construction of the imperial archive, 'a fantasy of knowledge collected and united in the service of state and empire', In that sense, 'the myth of imperial archive brought together in fantasy what was breaking apart in fact' and was thus shared widely; it even had an impact in policymaking (Richards, 1993: 6). This imperial archive was not a real museum or a real library, it was not a building or a colleciton of texts, but a fantasy pf projected total knowledge: it constituted a 'collectively imagined junction of all that was known or knowable, a fantastic representation of an epistemologial master pattern, a virtual focal point for the heterogeneous local knowledge of metropolis and empire' (Richards, 1993: 11). In this utopian space, disorder was transformed to order, heterogeneity to homogeneity and lack of political control and information to an imaginary empire of knowledge and power."

Yannis Stavrakakis, Lacan and the Political, 1999, pp. 81-82


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